GAF Story

Tara Cherian

James Cook University
Bachelor of Medicine & Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS)

Tara Cherian, JCU scholar during work experience placement

Bachelor of Medicine & Bachelor of Surgery scholar Tara shares how a work placement reinvigorated her motivation to study Medicine. 

Congratulations on receiving a George Alexander Foundation scholarship! How did you feel when you found out?

At first, I did not believe that I had received a scholarship. However, upon reading the email and realising it was real, I felt elated and honoured. Immediately after, I felt a bit of pressure that has and will continue to drive me to excel and honour my commitment in accepting this scholarship. Receiving the scholarship has motivated me to do my best and continuously reminds me of my purpose here at university, which is to study hard so I can give back to the community that has given me so much. Overall I was thrilled that I had done my parents and school proud.

You had already completed work experience before commencing study at James Cook University – can you tell us a bit about this? How did it influence your decision to study Medicine?

During my senior year of high school, I completed three days of work experience at the Mount Isa Base Hospital. During these three days, I could observe and learn from doctors in the Emergency Department. This included observing, consultations, triage, surgical procedures and being a part of life in the Emergency Room. Taking part in the work experience confirmed what I had always strived for. It confirmed that I wanted to be a doctor and sharpened the goal I had set for myself since primary school. The work experience in itself did not spark my interest in studying medicine. From a very young age, I decided to become a doctor. My grandmother's aunt was the first woman doctor from Kerala (my home state in India) to receive a Fellowship of the Royal Colleges of Surgeons in 1925 and I grew up wanting to emulate her. The work experience provided me with the clarity to know what to commit my life to and cemented my decision to apply to study medicine.

You recently completed a placement with a private medical practitioner in Mt Isa. How did you come across this opportunity, and can you tell us about your experience?

Dr. Ioselani Pouesi of Leichardt Medical Centre is a very committed and talented local doctor. He has been our family GP for the past nine years and has seen me grow up. He has always been devoted to encouraging local students to study medicine. On hearing of my admission to medicine at JCU he extended the invitation to do my placement with Leichardt Medical Centre and went further to say that a position was always available once I finished. Working at his surgery was informative and exciting. I brushed up on interpersonal skills, bedside manner, and observational skills. Whilst on placement I observed consultations, physical examinations and minor surgical procedures such as biopsies and excisions. The experience I had whilst on placement gave me an amazing insight into what being a doctor is and has reinvigorated my motivation for semester two.

What do you think the value is in gaining work experience? How does it equip you for life after study?

I do not think that there is such a thing as too much experience. At JCU, they have a very good emphasis on clinical practice from the early years of the course. Though medicine is predominantly knowledge-based and demands continuous study, the experience gained from placement is irrevocably the most important aspect of applying theory into practice. Getting through medicine will definitely make you a good doctor but the experience will go a long way in helping to shape a great doctor. A placement at a busy surgery with varied clients has definitely exposed me to a variety of conditions, diagnoses, medication, treatment plans and procedures. Furthermore, it has provided me with amazing insight into patient-centered care and the importance of trust between patient and medical practioner.

What has a George Alexander Foundation scholarship made possible during your time at university?

It has given me a certain confidence in myself. The scholarship in itself by way of monies, has helped me procure textbooks, a stethoscope and a laptop. It also helps me with my board and lodging expenses and also transportation. It has eased the monetary burden on my parents to some extent. It has taught me to be careful with my spending and has increased my value for money and budgeting. The scholarship has enabled me to participate in many activities and clubs that add to my university experience without feeling financially restricted. Being able to participate in these activities has made university an even more engaging place to be.

Where are you hoping your course will take you?

I hope that studying medicine will enable me to begin work as a rural doctor. I intend to return to work in my home town (Mount Isa) and surrounding rural communities initially before specialising further. I am yet to decide on what exactly I would like to specialise in but I have always been interested in Emergency Medicine or Cardiothoracic surgery. I would definitely love to work or study further overseas in the remote communities throughout the Pacific Islands, South-East Asia and South America. Hopefully, my studies will permit me to do so and look forward to seeing where my course will take me!